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Civic Engagement Campaign – Clean Air, Safe Traffic

From September 17 to 22, EWMI ACCESS grantee, the Civil Development Agency (CiDA), in partnership with the Regional Civil Society Network (R-CSN) organized a wide-scale civic engagement campaign “Clean Air, Safe Traffic” throughout Georgia. The campaign aimed at raising public awareness about air pollution and road safety and engaged drivers and other interested citizens in information meetings and thematic discussions in the regions of Kakheti, Kvemo Kartli, Shida Kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Imereti, Racha, Guria, Samegrelo and Ajara. Representatives of the Regional Civil Society Network (R-CSN) organized awareness-raising meetings in their respective regions and informed local residents on the factors that affect road safety, such as: drunk driving, speeding, careless driving, safety belts, role of infrastructure and humans in car accidents, pedestrians’ safety, etc. The R-CSN members also went to public gathering places and distributed information materials that were prepared especially for this campaign. 

The Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads, a leading CSO from Tbilisi working on road safety issues, and APM Terminals Poti (Poti Sea Port Corporation) joined the campaign too. In the beginning, they delivered Training of Trainers for the Regional Civil Society Network members who then led the campaign in their regions.

The Civic Week culminated in Tbilisi where the Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads organized a symbolic bike ride in the central part of the city to mark “International Car-Free Day”. The Mayor of Tbilisi and representatives of the diplomatic corps joined the bike ride. The purpose of the event was to promote a healthy way of life and encourage citizens to minimize the use of private cars for the sake of environment.

Civic Week in Mtskheta

Civic Week in Sagarejo

Strategic Communications Forum

On September 24, the International Forum on Strategic Communications was held at the Parliament of Georgia. The forum was supported by the US and UK Embassies in Georgia, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and EWMI ACCESS. Members of the Parliament and the Government of Georgia, representatives of diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia, and local and foreign experts were among the key speakers at the forum.

What is strategic communications system and why is it important for the state; how an effective strategic communications system should function in a complex information environment; what is the role of various stakeholders (the government, parliament, academia, and civil society) in building strategic communications system and its implementation in practice; strategic communication as an effective means for tackling anti-Western propaganda, as well as the method for informing the wider public about ongoing reforms in the country – these were the main topics discussed at the conference.

The conference participants noted that Georgia faces tough challenges. Against the backdrop of the hostile anti-western information environment the government struggles to persuade the public that its reforms bring positive change. Under such circumstances effective strategic communications becomes all the more crucial. The delegates of the forum agreed that the government should have a unified and coordinated communication system to combat disinformation and increase public awareness, and that this system should be adjusted to the Georgian context.

General Meeting of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Club

On September 26, the CSR Club’s general membership meeting was held. The meeting marked the launch of the CSR week - series of events dedicated to promoting CSR principles and sharing best practices with various stakeholders (businesses, CSOs, government, media, and others). For this purpose, from October 1 to 5, CSR Club members and other interested parties will organize discussions over various issues, such as: preventing sexual harassment at workplace, empowering persons with disabilities (PwDs) and supporting their employment, promoting effective waste management, etc. 

After reviewing the Club’s past activities, the Club members spoke about upcoming initiatives, such as launching the CSR School (a certified course enabling its participants to get familiar with  principles of Corporate Social Responsibility), and the CSR award contest to be announced in mid-October. The contest will be focused on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will reveal best business projects in the following categories:

• Quality Education
• Gender Equality
• Decent Work and Economic Growth
• Sustainable Cities and Communities
• Partnerships for Goals (SDGs)

At the general membership meeting, the CSR Club accepted eight new members (Alpha, Socar Group, Georgian Water and Power, Anaklia Development, Carrefour, Academy of the Ministry of Finance, Institute for Social Policy and Development, and Orbeliani Georgia), making the new total of 87 members. In addition, the General Meeting elected three new members to the Club’s governing board (Dio, TBC Bank, and Tbilisi Mall).

Strengthening the Pankisi Youth

Over the past six months, the EWMI ACCESS grantee Kakheti Regional Development Fund carried out a youth engagement project in the Pankisi Gorge and offered Kist and Georgian youth an ample of non-formal education and entertainment opportunities. Within the project, 60 adolescents participated in an extra-curricular program that was tailored to their interests. Among other activities, the project beneficiaries learned how to film videos and produced short films on their own, staged forum-theaters, participated in entertainment activities and attended evening discussions with invited guests (journalists, civic activists, psychologists, scientists, historians, and others). Discussion topics resonated with issues the youth were mostly interested in. To help youth establish closer ties, the Kakheti Regional Development Fund organized excursions and hikes in the Pankisi Gorge, the project beneficiaries also visited Tbilisi. The project culminated in a two-week summer camp that involved numerous activities, including sports competitions, board games, literature evenings and other events.

Project closing ceremony took place at the Duisi Community Center on September 28. The project participants shared their impressions and thoughts about the project.They said that project helped them make new friends from the villages that they would not have otherwise interacted with. They expressed hope that this process of “restoring broken bridges” will continue in the future too.

Meetings of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) with Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti Residents

From September 8 to 11, EWMI ACCESS organized open meetings between CSOs and residents of the Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti regions. The purpose of the meetings was to bring CSOs and communities closer together and to offer citizens the assistance in solving some of the local issues. For this reason, EWMI ACCESS, together with the representatives of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) travelled to villages in Ambrolauri, Tsageri, Lentekhi and Oni. 

Areas in which residents seek support relate to environmental protection, registration of ownership rights on agricultural land plots, use of timber, social and environmental impact of large hydropower plants, migration, and underdeveloped tourism potential on a local level. NGOs have already begun providing interested citizens with free legal aid that envisions representing the citizen’s rights and interests before local self-government bodies and the court.

Similar meetings were held in the villages of Zemo Svaneti (Khaishi, Idliani, Chuberi, and Nakra) in August this year. Communities were very much interested in developing small business and tourism potential in their villages. For this reason, the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association visited these villages again in September and delivered training in fundraising and business plan development to interested citizens.

EWMI ACCESS will support CSOs to further assist and empower communities in these regions.

Closing of the Grants Contest

September 14 was the deadline for submitting project proposals under the EWMI ACCESS grant program. The program was designed for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and aimed at combatting radicalization and violent extremism through strengthening the resilience of local communities. 12 project proposals were submitted under this call. EWMI ACCESS plans to award two projects with a maximum budget of USD 30,000 each. The winning projects will be announced before mid-October.

Non-Profit Management Course Graduation Ceremony

On September 25, EWMI ACCESS partner, the Center for Training and Consultancy (CTC) held a graduation ceremony of the two-month certified training program in non-profit management. The training course combined theory and practical exercises in management of non-profit organizations, project cycle management, and designing social campaigns. 11 participants received the certificates. The course was fully funded by EWMI ACCESS.

ACCESS is a five-year, $ 6,897,000 civil society development initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by EWMI. USAID administers U.S. foreign assistance programs providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.